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posted: 1/25/2013 5:16 AM

Resolving to 'go green' this new year

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Did you make New Years' resolutions? Have you broken them all yet? One of the most popular DIY resolutions this year involves "going green" or saving energy around the home. Here are our favorite tips:

• Install low-flow or water-saving shower heads on all of your showers. The new ones are made better and you can hardly tell you are using half the water. There also are special timers to automatically shut the water off after a preset time.

• Use cold water when washing clothes. They even make detergents made to work best in cold water.

• Choose the "short" cycle when using your dishwasher, and make sure it's full when you start it.

• Make the switch to homemade cleaners that use basics like vinegar and baking soda. You will eliminate harsh chemicals from your home and save a bundle at the same time.

• Your water heater can save energy if you keep it set at "medium," or 110 degrees. For each 10 degrees you decrease the temperature setting, you can save up to 5 percent on your energy bill. Also install insulation on your water tanks to keep them warm longer. Timers also can be installed.

• Turn off your lights when you are not in the room. If you have trouble remembering to do so, install timers or motion sensors to do it for you.

• Use power strips on all offices and entertainment centers or where lots of electrical items are being used. This way you can turn them all off at once to save energy and time. Things like computer monitors, chargers and lots of other electronics use energy even when sitting idle.

• Install weatherstripping on all doors and windows.

Send us your best energy-saving tips and we'll share them with our readers. Next week, we'll talk about ways to go green in the garden -- and we're not talking about green leaves!

"Keep tabs" on your tape

When you grab the tape, how long does it take you to find the end of it? If you are a typical DIY'er, it might take a while. It can be a struggle to find the end with standard, clear tape. Then you have to try to peel it up without damaging it, too. Why not make it easy on yourself? You can fold just a small amount of the end over to stick it onto itself. This creates a little "tab" that you can use the next time you need some tape. All you have to remember is to create a new tab when you are finished with the roll of tape. This will make it easier to use the next time.

Practical painting tips

Painting can give you a whole new look without a big budget. If you do the work yourself, you'll really save. But here's a super tip. If you are painting your ceilings, wear a plastic shower cap to avoid getting drips of paint in your hair. Wear clothes that you can afford to get messy, and wear plastic gloves. You can turn the cuffs of the gloves up so that any paint that does get on your hands won't drip down onto your arms. Keep the cleanup to a minimum and you'll be able to enjoy your "new" room in less time!

Super hints

• When you need to wash your dog indoors, don't clog your drain with dog hair. Place a wad of steel wool over the drain to catch the hair. It will let the water out but prevent dog-hair clogs in your bathtub.

• I am not very good at dealing with stacks of mail. We get a lot at our house, and we are always trying to cut down on it. One way to eliminate bills is to sign up and pay them online. You'll be able to track them better as well and, at the end of the year, you can even print up a summary in most cases. This can save you time on your taxes, too. Also opt out of other mail if you have the option.

• You can make a table from just about anything if you have a glass tabletop. Turn an old garden pot into a side table or an old steamer trunk into a coffee table. You can even replace an old ugly tabletop with a new piece of glass and give it new life.

Q. I am planning a new project, and it will require me to drill a hole into a glass panel. Would you please give me some tips so I don't break the glass while I'm drilling it?

A. You don't want to use tempered glass! On regular glass, use a carbide-tipped bit. We also like to use a lubricant on the glass as you are drilling. You can use water or oil. If you have some glass scraps, practice first so you can get the technique down. Good luck!

Q. I dropped a black marker pen on our kitchen floor and now there is a large black mark there. I've tried a couple of cleaners, but nothing will remove the mark yet. It's pretty bad. It's a tile floor, by the way. What would you recommend I try?

A. Try using alcohol. It will usually work on most ink stains. Rubbing alcohol is what we usually use, but you can use any cleaner with alcohol in it. That should do the trick.

Q. Is there any reason why I shouldn't cover my plain concrete porch with flagstone?

A. There are a couple of things you should do before covering the concrete. Either use waterproof adhesive or seal the concrete first to avoid moisture that might come from the ground through the porch surface. Also consider the added height of the stones in case you need to alter the door or anything else. Then, go for it. It sounds like a super idea!

Reader tips

• In the olden days, our shower curtain used to have magnets on it and would stick to the side of the tub to keep the spray inside the tub. Well, the tub we have in our new house isn't metal underneath the surface, so the magnets won't work anymore. I have mounted a small piece of Velcro on each side of the tub and the matching part on each side of the shower curtain. Now the shower curtain sticks in place while we are using the tub and keeps the water from spraying outside.

• I was tired of the dark stains around my shower. The grout is OK, but the caulk had some really bad mildew stains. I got some paper towels and saturated them with bleach. Then I twisted them into a ropelike shape and set them into the caulked seams and left them there overnight. Almost all of the black mildew stains were gone. It looks amazing now.

• I thought my wife was crazy Thanksgiving when I saw her spraying Pam into the candle holders before putting the candles in. But, this past weekend, my job was to remove the old candles and put new ones in before dinner. The old candles came out quickly, and I remembered to spray the Pam into the holders before putting the new ones in. My wife is pretty smart -- after all, she married me, right?

• With three kids I try to keep the chores simple so they all can help out when things need to be done around the house. We pack our off-season clothes in trash cans with tightfitting lids. The cans are plastic, so they aren't heavy, and they have wheels, so you can roll them into the garage for easy storage. Each child has his or her own container and he or she packs it. We've never had a problem with these containers, either. They are pretty heavy duty.


• If you are trying to be "green" -- and who isn't these days? -- you might be considering starting a compost pile. This is so easy to do and, once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of free plant food and mulch for your yard year round. It doesn't cost much and is a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home as well as many other items destined for the garbage can. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions.

• Slobproof! Paint Pen is a neat idea -- really neat. It's an empty paint pen you can fill with your own paint. Put leftovers into these paint pens with the syringe that comes with them and keep them handy in your home for those occasional touch-ups that we all need from time to time. It's much easier than having to open the old can and grabbing a brush. There's not much cleanup needed either. Check it out at

• Lysol has a new line of cleaners called Power & Free. It uses hydrogen peroxide rather than bleach so it's safer to use, but it still kills up to 99.9 percent of all common household germs. There's a multipurpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and bathroom wipes. They work great on soap scum as well as grease -- without the harshness. To find out more, go to This line of products is available at most grocery stores, as well as select discount and drugstores.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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